Fiji conjures up thoughts of blissing out on white-sand beaches, swimming in tropical waters and smiling while saying "bula!" to everyone. But there's more to experience in this paradise, so writer Rachel Grunwell shares some experiences at two top locations.
Stay at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort if you like blending beach time with adventure.
This is a five-star resort on the mainland's Coral Coast. There's so much to do here.
There are adult-only swimming pools or family pools and five restaurants for casual dining to fine-dining. The nanny service and kids' club are a stand-out.
There's a well-equipped gym and tennis courts. Or you can experience a luxurious massage at the Bebe Spa Sanctuary on top of the hill, overlooking the sea, sand and palm trees.
This resort has a great range of accommodation options from standard hotel rooms to spacious beach bures. The latter boasts a butler service which includes champagne and canapes delivered late afternoon and a night-cap and sweet treat in the evening.
The butler can even unpack your gear and iron your clothes.
At night, I recommend going to the Kalokalo Bar — at the resort's highest point. It's like sitting in an adult tree-house as you sip cocktails and watch the blazing red sunset. The on-site restaurants are all great at this resort. But for a special night out, go to Ivi Restaurant — one of Fiji's finest award-winning restaurants.
This resort is near the new Eco-Trax tour. On this tour, you sit on an electric bike, fixed onto a custom-built trolley which runs on an unused sugarcane railway line. You peddle on the trolley for 11km. On the journey, you pass through tropical bush, fields and villages.
You ride across bridges and see deserted beaches for miles and slow down to observe an historic church, and you encounter kids, goats, cows and horses.
You stop when you reach the private Vunibua Beach (named after the Frangipani tree). Here you have an hour to savour this tropical paradise.
While you swim, the staff prepare refreshments of fresh coconut water and fruits, including pawpaw, with a generous squeeze of fresh lime. The tour group leader jokes we will have to peddle backwards for 11km to get back to where we started. But, actually, while we were at the beach, they turned the bikes around.
The humour from the guides never stops. They are an asset to this awesome tourism experience.
You can do this tour at any age. They even have baby seats to accommodate families. You peddle at your own pace.
Meanwhile, just a short buggy ride away from the resort is the Kula Wild Adventure Park which boasts native birds, iguanas, snakes, a beautiful aquarium of fish and coral, a zip rail, water slide and kids' water park.
South Sea Cruises is popular and affordable transport. Take this between the mainland and Castaway Island.
Castaway Island is postcard picture-perfect. Thatched, beach-side bures here are the kind you dream about. Staff encourage you to get lost.
You are here for the look and feel of a true tropical beach experience. There are no signs on site. It's easy to lose track of time and let go. The bures have no television, radio or clocks and have black-out curtains to encourage sleeping in.
There's no Wi-Fi either unless you are in the main restaurant areas. All the staff, like Lingo Reece, make you feel like you are family. He's worked here for 30 years. He's so sweet and funny that he's likely the reason a Melbourne couple is on their 11th visit to the island.
The return rate for this island is up to 40 per cent. The food is fresh and delicious.
If you want to try a special experience then book into the award-winning Restaurant 1808. You dine barefoot in the sand, while the food is delivered art-like from an outdoor kitchen. I declared "I'm in heaven" when my dessert arrived.
It was a spice tea (liquored coconut) panacotta. It came in a wreath shape with flowers, candy coconut and a strawberry compote. Yes, it was a heavenly dessert along with all the courses that came before it ...
Some stand-out experiences from this island included a private sunset cruise. We drank champagne and watched the sun set while passing several neighbouring islands. I also loved helping with the island's reef conservation programme, Ozone.
I don gloves and fixed coral cuttings to a structure which is then submerged in the sea. The cuttings re-grow similar to that of a garden cutting. I love that the island cares about environmental initiatives like this.
Environmental officer Koli then took us snorkelling to see the success of their coral planting efforts in the resort's reef.
Another adventure was an excursion via the resort's high-speed boat to Modriki Island. This is where the movie Cast Away featuring Tom Hanks was filmed. We had hours here snorkelling, sunbathing, enjoying a picnic on the beach and drinking champagne.
Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island: www.outrigger.com/hotels-resorts/fiji
Rachel Grunwell runs lifestyle website inspiredhealth.co.nz. Follow her via the InspiredHealthNZ Facebook or inspiredhealthandfitness on Instagram.